Cascades: Slayed (USA Day 99)
If they didn’t teach you at school that camping beside large quantities of fast-running water halfway up a mountain is cold, then they didn’t teach you anything. Our cosy camp spot forgot the meaning of the word ‘warm’ somewhere between dusk and dawn, refusing to re-learn it until long after the time we left. Part of the problem was that what with hillsides and tall trees, we didn’t get a speck of sun. Jittering and flittering, we packed up our bits and forced down some nigh-on-frozen Nutella sandwiches, then retraced our steps back to the highway.
Who ordered downhills? Not we, certainly. Despite glimmers of warmth from sunny patches, we created our own chill wind all the way down the many-footed mountain, so that by twenty miles into our short day we were still huddled in leggings, jumper and coat even when the air temperature was verging on nice degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the downhills stopped being so rude, we gradually clambered out of our protective shells and warmed up, leaving the highway and perusing a network of apple and pear orchards, each with grids of trees ripe to bursting with sun-blushed fruit. Fighting the temptation to scrump what was clearly private property, we cycled on with hungry eyes until trees turned to traffic and we hit Hood River.
Our host offered us a flat above his garage, decked out with kitchen and large TV. After days and days of being responsible for every little thing, of hanging food and toiletries from trees against greedy bears, of reading maps and measuring water supply and reapplying sunscreen, what we both so desperately needed was to relinquish all responsibility for an evening. With plates of pizza piled high with extra vegetables, we melted in front of the TV, watching six stages of La Vuelta a Espana back to back and barely moving for the rest of the day.
Hood River is, according to our host, deep within a wind tunnel that blows relentlessly from the west. Local hobbies include windsurfing, kite-flying and getting grit in your contact lens. So tomorrow, while short, should be plenty tough enough.